Monday, May 02, 2011

lavjaktravels has moved!

Hello World!

This is just a little note to let you know that this blog has moved to We've been thinking about moving to wordpress for some time, since we have a number of other blogs also on wordpress, and it just makes things a little bit more convenient. But the decision was finalized on a recent trip to China, where we realized that blogspot is blocked by the "Great Firewall of China!" We exported all of the content from this site over to it's new home while we were on the road, and I think you'll like the new digs. Please check it out when you get a chance... we've so enjoyed traveling with you over the years and hope to continue doing so for many many more!

A little teaser of what you'll find at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mayakoba Day 6: Time to Go Home?? Boo...

Sigh... Our last day in Mayakoba.

We decided to wake up nice and early today to catch the sunrise at the beach. At 6:30 am, we called for a buggy which whisked us swiftly to the waters edge. When we arrived, we weren't sure if we'd missed the sunrise due to a cloudy day...

But soon, we were rewarded in a most spectacular way, when the sun slipped quite suddenly over the clouds.

We took an early morning dip, our last of the trip. It was pretty surreal, with the sun blazing the way it does as it's rising, and with us having the whole beach to ourselves.

Soon enough, the sun was in it's normal place, so we walked up the steps to the beach club pool, and napped for about an hour before breakfast.

I was going through my "end of vacation" blues so there were no happy breakfast pictures on this day. We did, however, spend our last hour in Mayakoba enjoying our villa to the fullest- a final swing in the hammock...

... and a last minute float 20 minutes before check out.

Before we left for Mexico, all of the weather reports for the area claimed that it would rain the entire time we would be on vacation, but we were blessed with incredible weather. In fact, it seemed like it rained all around us, from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, but in Mayakoba, they must have the ability to control the weather or something. The only rain we encountered was while we were waiting for our ride to the airport. I think Mexico was sad that we were leaving too.

The flight home was easy and uneventful, and we were promptly picked up at Sea-Tac by a grinning Shane, a good reminder of all the blessings we have here in Seattle, and one of the reasons why home is home.

This trip deviated from our previous "Big Trips" of years past. Instead of a completely planned out multi-city extravaganza that has us on the go every day for 2 weeks, this time, we basically spent a week parked out on a beach, something we haven't really done since our honeymoon to Moorea and Bora Bora. In fact, this felt much like a second honeymoon, filled with romantic moments, complete relaxation, indulgences, and lots of swimming. I don't think I've seen Jack so idle since... I don't know when. But it was nice just to see him staring off at the ocean, or napping in the sun. And you know, as much as I love planning out a good, jam-packed itinerary, there's something to be said for a blank schedule, for waking up in the morning and seeing what the day may hold. We needed this. It was a tough winter/spring, and I think this trip rejuvenated us both, gave us some good quality time together, and gives us a chance to recharge for whatever comes next.

Hopefully, there will be more Banyan Trees in our future... we've been ruined. This was truly hospitality at it's finest. It was pretty amazing that most of the staff knew our names by the second day that we were there. From Zuleyka's friendly welcome and beautiful smile, to Alejandro, our waiter who bent over backwards to make our breakfasts phenomenal experiences every single day, to the attentiveness of Erik and Federico, the two managers at Tamarind and Oriente respectively, to Mariel's exquisite knowledge of tequilas, Rubi's gentle, sweet greeting as she watched me swim laps around the main pool before breakfast and Samuel's cheerful "whistle while you work attitude" as he transported us from one part of the resort to another, we felt like no stone had been left unturned. It wasn't just that these people are really good at what they do, it actually seemed like they loved it. In fact, Samuel actually told us that he will often take over the shifts of his colleagues because he loves work so much that he never wants to leave! I can't imagine never wanting to leave work. From all accounts, it does seem like the Banyan Tree Company treats it's employees well, providing good housing options, multiple meals a day, and training locals in the art of hospitality, so that they can develop skills and build careers. At the same time, we were impressed by all of the efforts the resort put into re-developing the surrounding nature preserve, educating it's staff in protecting the environment, and utilizing a green philosophy within the resort.

At some point, as we drank cold drinks on our private beach, (or maybe it was while we were floating around in our villa pool), I asked Jack, "What would it take to be able to live here?"
He responded, "You either have to win the lottery or become a day trader."

So my question is, does anyone know anything about day trading??

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mayakoba Day 5: Best. Day. Ever.

I'm skipping day 4 in the hopes of getting some photos for that day off of the page of a new facebook friend that we met in Mexico, to help you visualize all the crazy things we did on that day... so we'll come back to day 4 another time.

Moving ahead, day 5 was filled with a few of my favorite things...


Free eco-tour boat ride in the Mayakoba lagoon...

Unusual sightings in the man-made lagoon, which has turned into a natural habitat for wildlife.

Baby gray herons...

A baby crocodile!!

Seaweed maintenance...

Teenaged crocodile, hanging out on the rocks by the Fairmont... our guide had to call her colleague at the Fairmont to warn him about the beast on the hotel grounds!

My tattoo got some good air time...

Mr. and Mrs. Iguana...

Our boat captain Ignacio, who had eyes like a hawk.

In the afternoon, we sailed off to the beach, to relax in the cool, crystal waters.

We loved the beach club!

We made it back to the resort by 3:30 in the afternoon, just in time for our spa treatments!! The Banyan Tree Spa is one of the best in the world, and in Mayakoba, they actually relocated some of their spa attendants from Thailand to help train the staff in Mexico. My 120 minute facial came with a full body massage, and Jack enjoyed the complimentary 60 minute Balinese massage which came with our room, but was lengthened to 80 minutes just because his therapist was nice. No pictures, unfortunately, but needless to say, the experience was perfect and tranquil, one of the best spa days we've had.

For dinner, we headed over to Saffron, Banyan Tree's signature Thai restaurant. We requested the special sweet heart table out on the edge of the lagoon, and watched the sky change colors during the course of our meal. In spite of the heat and the mosquitoes, we loved our dinner. There was much sighing, as we knew that it would be our night in Mexico.

After dinner, we took one last evening stroll through the grounds, and found that our friend the cigar man was back, so Jack purchased another Cuban to cap off our perfect day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mayakoba Day 3: Mexican Cooking School

Sigh... just another beautiful day in paradise. Before breakfast, I lounged around in the hammock while Jack played in the water.

Ah... breakfast! Quickly becoming one of my favorite times of the day!

Here were some of the offerings on this gorgeous morning: Seared Ahi Tuna with grapefruit and mint, and a poached egg dish served with green sauce.

I can't get enough of this tropical fruit!

A comparative analysis of the two pools we swam in after breakfast. The main pool, Reflections, vs. our own villa pool. There's no comparison. Both are awesome!

In the early afternoon, we took a complimentary Mexican cooking class, offered by the head chef of the Oriente, the restaurant where we eat our breakfasts. On the menu for today, we learned how to make pico de gallo, guacamole, and grouper ceviche. Not much cooking involved, but when you get to eat what you make, it's always a good time.

We were joined in the class by only one other couple, a really cool husband and wife from New York City, who we actually saw around quite a bit over the next few days.

After the cooking class, more swimming!

Hanging out at the swim up bar, as we awaited our drinks.

Drying out on the rooftop lounge...

... and a view of the mangrove canals.

At 4pm, we had scheduled a walk through the Spa's Rainforest room, basically a set of 8 different stations where we went from Rain-head shower, to eucalyptus steam room, to another tropical rain forest shower room, to a humid sauna, to a dry sauna, to a jungle shower, to an ice scrub, to a salt steam... it was like being in a carwash. Totally fun and rejuvenating, and culminating in a long soak in a huge, indoor whirlpool. The room was beautiful and we tried to sneak back in later to take a picture, but it was locked. We soaked in the whirlpool for so long, that our attendant actually had to come in and, very kindly, kick us out!

Soon enough, it was sunset, and we got ourselves ready to head out to Sands, the restaurant on the beach that was hosting a barbeque that evening. As we waited for a buggy to drive us over, Mariel, the manager of the rooftop lounge, came over and said, "Excuse me, Senor and Senorita Chen, I believe you are signed up for our complimentary tequila tasting, no?"

How could we forget??

So we followed her over to the lounge where she had 5 different tequilas set up and ready for us to taste. I'm not normally a big tequila fan, but as she explained the characteristics of each one, I think I actually gained some respect for a liquor that I associate mostly with crazy college kids and worms. Each one that she poured was so different, and the last one actually had a buttery, velvety finish, very much to my liking.

On our way to the barbeque, we caught this fantastic sunset, a deeply satisfying end to a gem of a day.

Mayakoba Day 2: Cozumel and Cuban Cigars

Our second day at the Banyan Tree started off pretty fantastically. Breakfast made me so... happy.

We had booked our room with an all-you-can-eat breakfast included, and oh what a breakfast! Fresh, delicious Mexican delectables, freshly baked breads and pastries, tropical fruits galore, a whole menu of egg dishes made to order, and freshly squeezed juices... heaven!

Coffee came in this cute little jacket, and halfway through coffee, juice, Mexican hot chocolate and iced tea, the servers came through with trays of apple cider spiked with champagne! Don't mind if I do...

We had some fun with these heads as we waited for a cab to Playa del Carmen.

A view of the roof top lounge during the day...

Too bad our camera isn't waterproof. It was tucked safely away in a dry spot as we snorkeled out near Cozumel's coral reefs. Cozumel, a small island about a 30 minute ferry ride off the coast of Playa del Carmen, has the second largest reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, although much of Cozumel was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It was interesting though, to see the measures being taken by the government to re-develop the coral reefs. We snorkeled in three different areas, and in each, there were some giant concrete bell jars sitting on the ocean floor, with colorful fish and other forms of marine life already growing around them. At one point, our guide pointed out a long skinny fish beneath us, and upon surfacing, he said, "Barracuda!" All I could think about was the opening scene in "Finding Nemo."

Speaking of fish, I'd forgotten that Jack is in fact, a marine mammal. He can hold his breath for several minutes, and can do the back stroke 15 feet below the water surface. At one point, he dived deep down among a school of hundreds of silver fish, parting them like the Red Sea as he swam a straight line through them, causing them to quiver silvery, diagonal streaks through the turquoise water... a beautiful sight, as I watched from above.

Jack sits on the helm of our little boat, chatting it up with three friends from Mexico City.

Back on Cozumel, we roamed through the town square...

...but we found the waterfront much more charming.

Back on Playa del Carmen, the beautiful beach was filled with weekend revelers.

5th Avenue, Playa's main street, stretched endlessly with shops, vendors, restaurants and bars. We found a cool looking place for dinner, and the server made us fresh guacamole table side. There is something really different about avocados in Mexico- so much richer and creamier, probably because they have a chance to ripen on the tree.

Back at the Banyan Tree, we found that a Cuban cigar maker had set up a work station in the rooftop lounge. He explained that he used wrappers and leaves procured from Cuba, and he himself was a third generation cigar roller.

We bought one and brought it back to our villa, enjoying the smooth, and refined flavor, puffing smoke rings while taking a dip in the pool. Definitely not something you get to enjoy everyday.